Mortal Love – I Have Lost
02/09/2005 § Leave a comment
Label: Massacre Records
It’s important not to have too many expectations, that is how a lot of things get ruined. Think about the charge of the Light Brigade, for instance. The Earl of Cardigan had expectations about how his military manoeuvre was going to go, the manoeuvre failed and lead to, well, a lot of people dying. Also, on a slightly lesser level, my cat has the expectation – not altogether unreasonably – that he will be fed around 5pm. When this does not happen it leads to disappointment on his part. And also a lot of meowing. Possibly a frog being brought in around 7pm. I also had the expectation that the next Mortal Love album was going to be distinctly average. I say ‘distinctly’ because All The Beauty carried a certain drone, a certain monotony that it was clear Mortal Love had made all their own. In the absence of any good music they should have at least been proud of themselves for inventing an altogether new musical method of expressing boredom, not to mention annoyance, the way that songs like the whiny title track and Beautiful One resounded cacophonically in the ear even after the damn thing had finished. God, it was a wrench playing that album sometimes. Pushing the stop button felt like putting a dying animal out of its misery.
But this time round, the story is a different one since Mortal Love have been given an altogether new lease of life. It wasn’t unreasonable to expect a poor effort after a result of the debut, but my expectations have not been met at all. In fact, they have been surpassed since what Mortal Love have created this time round is a highly enjoyable and thrilling package. I don’t know whether it’s the fact that they’ve had three years to do it, whether it’s the fact that it is produced by Zet, one of Norway’s finest musicians in metal, or whether it’s the result of three years of solid effort. Whatever the reasons are, they don’t matter and fade away into obscurity since I Have Lost is an altogether superior – and laudable – successor to the band’s debut.
Listening to this, there was clearly a fork in the road about where Mortal Love could have gone after All The Beauty. It would almost be impossible to create another album of such marvellously repetitive drivel, so they could have either made an even worse album of tepid, flat dirges, or they could have gone the other way with a little help, and that’s exactly what’s happened. One thing that becomes clear on listening to the first track, Existence, is the solidity of the production. The guitars are satisfyingly crunchy and heavy, they carry that beautiful kind of force that feels as if you’re being punched by the distortion, but what a beautiful strength it is. This track also starts with a killer riff, and after a plinky plonky Alice In Wonderland-esque section, Cat’s vocals come in, and my, how they have improved. She is clearly far less afraid of her voice and what she can do with it, and many times on this album she slides and trills the notes with such ease it’s as if she’s playing with the vocal melody, toying with it the way a cat would with its catch. She is most definitely in control of the music, rather than the other way round, and it’s marvellous to hear such a composite singer in full command of the notes she is swirling her voice around and sometimes, but only sometimes, this can transport you to somewhere different altogether.
But it isn’t only the first track that blows you away here, far from it. Almost every number on the album is enjoyable in its own way – we’re not talking killer tracks here, ones that will be instantly likeable and commercial – but songs that, after three or four listens, you start to hear the beauty in, pay attention to and end up respecting for what they are. These range from the fabulous Adoration and marvellous Empathy, to the stunning lucidity of Identity and Memory. Every song here has something of worth and something appreciable about it.
However, even though the songs may have merits in their own rights, what stops this album from being brilliant is the fact that the music doesn’t have enough of an edge, it doesn’t have the inimitable X-factor that could really push it one stage further and as a result a couple of the songs do sound rather similar. Sometimes the heaviness of the guitars and the shrillness of the notes gets a little too much and this album really cries out for a tiny bit more variety in order to make it something really special. Not only this, but some of the choruses do seem a little out of place in the songs which makes me think that some of this album was a musical array of ideas with various segments being switched from one song to the other in order to see what could work the best. Zet’s influence is also clearly noticeable in a few of the tracks, but this is far from a bad thing.
Thankfully, though these little niggles may prey on the conscience somewhat, they don’t really do I Have Lost any disservices since the album is by far a resounding success. The more you come back to it, more hidden sections will start to peer out at you. This is not overly complex music, but it doesn’t need to be in order for the listener to appreciate it and enjoy it, there’s still a lot here to commend in the song writing and the execution of the music. Mortal Love have definitely come up with a winner here, and one which they deserve to be recognised for. I certainly pray that they know what to do from now on and where to take their sound since I Have Lost is a perfect base for even better-sounding follow-ups and I await them anxiously and excitedly. Maybe sometimes it can be nice when your expectations are met.